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E.C. Henry

Don't ever discount the affect you can have on others, Billy. Sorry if some of us (me, E.C. Henry) don't get your advice right off the bat. Work in process, the learning curve. It's gotta be hard to work with apprentices constantly, when you, yourself, are a master reader. Your patience is appreciated.

For me the struggle in writing screenplays is the idea to spec. script transition, ie. how much to break a scene down and express my vision of the emotional aspects in a scene. As a writer dedicated to making a story as good as it can be finding the emotional hooks in scenes becomes easier and easier as you rewrite/rethink it. I just need a pro's POV to give me the confidence that, yes, this is the way you do that and not piss eveyone off in the industry in the process.

Anyway, will print your blog off and re-read it at lunch at work today. Good stuff. Thanks.

- E.C. Henry from Bonney Lake, WA

Robert Grant

I've often wondered why that book doesn't exist and I think the reason is this. The only one I've ever tried to read was a dull-as-dishwater film school text book that sucked the fun right out of ever wanting to watch a movie ever again.

Great book by the way, and nice blog.




Billy (can I call you Billy?),

How right you are. I cannot tell you how many wasted pages of notes I've made for "would be" screenwriters only to immediately find out they have no idea what the notes even mean which immediately translates to a writer who has yet straddle the baseline I was ranting about.

I receive a daily barrage of email that consist of nothing more than simple complaints.


Or my favorite consistent type of email:


You get the idea...

Every once in a while AGAINST MY BETTER JUDGEMENT, I go ahead and take a look at these screenplays that should have won contests and or be playing at your local cinema.

Uh... No.

Baseline? More like FLATLINE.

I won't even talk about subtle differences in describing a character or location so that your reader creates said character or location in their mind's eye.


Because 9 out of 10 screenplays I go ahead and read have 25 to 100 typos in them. Incorrect format (and oh how I am lenient on format). No structure to speak of. Yada yada yada.

I normally contact these individuals and as nice as I can, explain to them that they need to START FROM SCRATCH. Toss everything out the window they THINK they know and start over with the basics and if that means taking a class, so be it. If you can do it with a book, great. BUY THE BOOK.

In other words, I see a lot of the "I CAN DO BETTER THAN THAT" syndrome when in fact, it's obvious these writers failed to perform their own due diligence when it comes to LEARNING about the craft of screenwriting.

On top of that, I then find out that with my callous and pompous (at least that's what they tell me) review of their screenplay, it turns out that SCREENWRITING was no more than a "passing fancy."

Of course they failed to let ME know that when I agreed to read the screenplay and write up a couple of hours worth of notes that they will very likely never read.

If it sounds like I'm whining, I AM.

I could have banged out several screenplays in the same amount of time and effort I've given THOSE that claim SCREENWRITING IS THEIR LIFE. LOL.

But that's okay because I elected to make that decision (thanks Michael Mann) and now it is payday.

Every one of those stinking screenplays TAUGHT me how to become a better screenwriter so in the end the reading and the writing of notes was ultimately worth the trouble.

For me.

I love what you've said here and I will send as many readers of my blog over here to read what you've written because it is that important:

1) Screenplays are a sell.
2) Visions are viral.
3) The medium is the message.

Read between the lines... Good stuff.



EC, we aim to please.

Welcome, Rob: Glad you enjoyed. There IS a book called "Cinematic Storytelling" (Jennifer Van Sijll, Michael Wiese Press) that's pretty good...

Welcome, Unk: And thanks for the rant; believe me, I have been there and back (and yet live to tell the tale)...

Miriam Paschal

Thanks for a great post! I do this all the time. On the way to work I see the sun rising over the mountains to the east and try to work out ways to describe what it looks like.

When I'm at the mall I watch the body language of a couple as they bicker quietly to see how it strikes my eye.

And on and on. I think all cinematic images have some kind of beauty, even when the film is set in a slum or a prison, because somebody took the time to compose the shot. They thought about each element and how it would look in context with all the other elements.

The trick is to find the beauty in anything you look at.


Great Post! Thank you.

Mystery Man

Give me one more shout-out, Billy, and I swear, I'll have to propose to you. Hehehe...

The point that upsets me so much is that, as a community, we screenwriters refuse to talk to each other (or blog about) a craft that we all love so much, a craft that is complicated, mysterious, multi-faceted, and yet, endlessly fascinating. Who cares if you post on your blog the things you've studied? All that means is that you know stuff. How well you APPLY what you know to your own stories is a vastly different matter altogether. The truth is, you grow by studying and talking to other writers. You're doing yourself and your stories a disservice by keeping it all to yourself.

With respect to lighting - on one level, an amateur reading this might think Billy is suggesting that the scribes should indulge in flowery writing in the action lines. Is that what he's really doing? It's flowery if it's pointless. But a master craftsman writes of sets, colors, and lighting in ways (subtlety, suggestively) that he KNOWS will visually serve his story. What we're talking about here is nothing less than master craftsmanship.

But yet it's complicated. I readily acknowledge that there are truly brilliant cinematographers in the biz, and if they have different visual ideas that might serve the story better, I will absolutely let the brilliant person do a brilliant job. We writers are such a pain sometimes, I think, because we haven't studied the craft ENOUGH.

This is such a great post, Billy.


Mystery Man

I'm happy to report that inspired by me and Unk, "Shares Dream World – The Craft of Screenwriting"...

...has been created and they will be studying Inciting Incidents.



Miriam: ...and anything you hear...

Susan you're welcome.

Mystery Man: "It's ALIVE!"


Thank you thank you thank you professor.

I'm off to get the required texts.


I've had a few writing teachers tell me that if i even *try* to do the director's job for them, even by getting a little creative with my stage directions, i will be publically sacrificed...

and then they'll throw my script away.

I too, have also read many, MANY horrible scripts. (when i wasn't filing, getting coffee, depositing huge amounts of cash at giant banks with 80 floors and security guards that have to press the elevator button for you...) But the difference is, most of the shitty stuff I read was already in production.

...sometimes, that made me mad.
But then, I'd buy myself a muffin or something and everything would be alright again.


Janet: And will you be wanting some oatmeal with that?

Jess: Exactly. A good muffin can make all the difference (and don't get me started on Those Writing Teachers...)

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